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1937: Escape from Alcatraz – The Most Famous Prison in the World

1937: Escape from Alcatraz – The Most Famous Prison in the World

They were waiting for an opportunity. It presented itself when on this day in 1937 a thick fog blanketed the island. They removed the bars and went to shore.

On this day two prisoners – Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe – performed an escape from one of America’s best-secured prisons – Alcatraz, located on the island in San Francisco Bay. Both were imprisoned for robbing a bank. It seems that they had planned the escape for a long time. The two of them worked in the prison workshop in the northernmost part of the island, where the inmates produced mats for the U.S. Navy out of old tires. The workshop had metal bars on the windows, which they sawed off over time, but hid that fact by adjusting the bars back with grease and shoe polish. They were waiting for an opportunity.

It presented itself when on this day in 1937, when a thick fog blanketed the island. They removed the bars and went to shore. No one could notice them outside because of the fog, which was on that day one of the thickest of the whole year. They reached the outer fence and opened the door with a mechanic’s tool, which they had taken from the workshop. They entered the water presumably relying on floats improvised from fuel canisters. The police never saw them again. Since there were strong tides in the bay at the time, estimated at 7–9 knots, the police assumed that they could not swim to shore, but were swept up to the Golden Gate Bridge and out to the Pacific Ocean. However, there were eyewitnesses later who claimed they spotted them. It remains a mystery what really happened to them.

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